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J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform. 1995 Feb;21(1):183-202.

Why change gaits? Dynamics of the walk-run transition.

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Department of Cognitive and Linguistic Sciences, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island 02912.

Erratum in

  • J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform 1995 Jun;21(3):450.


Why do humans switch from walking to running at a particular speed? It is proposed that gait transitions behave like nonequilibrium phase transitions between attractors. Experiment 1 examined walking and running on a treadmill while speed was varied. The transition occurred at the equal-energy separatrix between gaits, with predicted shifts in stride length and frequency, a qualitative reorganization in the relative phasing of segments within a leg, a sudden jump in relative phase, enhanced fluctuations in relative phase, and hysteresis. Experiment 2 dissociated speed, frequency, and stride length to show that the transition occurred at a constant speed near the energy separatrix. Results are consistent with a dynamic theory of locomotion in which preferred gaits are characterized by stable phase relationships and minimum energy expenditure, and gait transitions by a loss of stability and the reduction of energetic costs.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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